Whenever a TV show announces a very special episode, it usually means that one of the snarky, know-it-all kids is going to get caught with a toothpick-sized joint in their cavernous "typical middle class" bedroom. Here at TST when we announce a very special edition, damnit, we mean it.
The upcoming Rams/Cardinals scrum this week might mark a sentimental occasion for fans of a previous NFL team that called the Gateway City home once upon a time. And for local boy done good, Will Leitch, that's especially true. Will, whom many of you will know as the brains behind Deadspin, the blog that makes ESPN nervous at their growing irrelevance, and the author of some other tomes dealing maturely with growing up and being awkward, holds a special place for the Cardinals of Arizona.
Will has graciously agreed to weave a special tale for the readers of TST in anticipation of this week's game. Enjoy!
I was living in St. Louis in 1998 and couldn't wait to watch my Buzzsaw take on the then-boring and frivolous interloping Rams. The thing about this game was that, as is typically the case in St. Louis, more people were paying attention to Busch Stadium about a quarter-mile away than they were to the events inside the TWA Dome. Mark McGwire, a superstar of such quality that his reputation could obviously never be impeached in any possible fashion, came into the Sunday with 68 homers. This was a far more noteworthy local occurrence than whether or not June Henley would lead the team in rushing yards that year. (He would, edging out the immortal Greg Hill.)
Anyway, here's the circumstance. The Rams, up by three and somehow favored, were driving late in the third quarter for what could be a decisive touchdown. It was fourth down and 1, inside the Cardinals' 10-yard line, and the Rams were going for it. A touchdown on this drive would cinch it. Quarterback Tony Banks called the signals ... and then, out of nowhere came a deafening cheer from the crowd. Banks, never the calmest signal caller, became confused, looking around, wondering if he'd missed something, if maybe his running back had suddenly broken into a pantless jig. He pulled away from center, spun around and ... then the whistle. Delay of game.
What had happened? McGwire had hit his 69th homer, off Expos rookie Mike Thurman. The TWA Dome fans, watching their televisions and listening to their Bartman pocket radios more closely than they were keeping tabs on Banks, went crazy after McGwire's shot. The chatter caused Banks to lose his bearings and end up with the delay of game penalty. The Rams were forced to kick a field goal, and Cardinals ended up reaching the endzone on their next possession and they won the game en route to their first playoff appearance in 16 years. As a fan of both the football and baseball Cardinals, I couldn't have scripted it any better.
When people ask me why I stuck with The Buzzsaw That Is The Arizona Cardinals once they left St. Louis, and didn't root from the Rams, that's why: The baseball Cardinals and the Rams might as well play on different planets. As for this week's game? Oh, you're gonna kill us. But you knew that.
Again, special thanks to Will. Be sure to visit Deadspin and make snarky comments about the upcoming game.